Blogs Jan 2021 to March 2021

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The Basement Today- No more coal chute


(Part 2)
My family of four in 1948 was still poor but making a little headway so they decided to follow the lead of other upwardly mobile people.  They decided to use some of their funds to rent a bigger cave.  Anyone reading this who has walked in these shoes understands the predicament of the lower economic class.  While you WANT and NEED space it stands in line with other essentials like food, utilities, clothing, transportation, telephone, and an occasional night at the movies.
One of the biggest factors for the price of a home, as you may know, is location, LOCATION, LOCATION.  And that’s where and why I had my very first abrupt introduction to the ‘WORLD OF DIFFERENCES’.
I have no idea how many apartments and other locations my twenty-something parents looked at before putting down a deposit on our new abode.  But I can imagine that their limited earnings demanded that they sacrifice their ideal location.  Circumstances necessitated that they go across the tracks and out of CANAAN into a land of strangers.  They left the familiar comforts of the ghetto with an expectation that we’ll be just fine.
They ended up on Northlawn.  It was a second floor flat with a bit more space than Gladstone.  Joel and I shared one of the two bedrooms.  We all share a single bathroom.  We had a kind, hunchbacked, elderly (50ish) landlord, Charlie, who lived with his teenage son, Jimmy, in a filthy, cluttered space on the floor below.  We all shared a common entry door to the house.  A second door separated Charlie’s space from the foyer.  We had to climb a few more than a dozen wooden steps to a small landing in front of two more doors.  The door to the right entered the living room; the door straight ahead went into the kitchen.  One of my chores each Friday was to sweep down then wash down that stairway.
Both Charlie and Jimmy seemed odd to me.  The aromas that floated up the stairs to our living space from Charlie’s kitchen into our home were both powerful and unfamiliar, sometimes offensive.
There was a basement in the house where there was a washer and dryer.  The basement was dimly lit by a 25 watt lightbulb in a hanging socket; it smelled both musty and of dead rats.  I hated having to be in that basement.  While down there on some chore I’d have a glance out of the corner of my eye of something dart across the floor.  Every now and then there would be a loud snap when a trap was triggered and another mouse or rat would bite the dust.  There was also a strong smell of coal.  The house was heated by coal.  A small 8 x 8 coal room was filled by a delivery truck which dumped the coal through a chute into the basement and later was shoveled into the furnace.  The driveway at the side of the house was broken and uneven, leading to the backyard and a leaning, aged garage.  The two-car garage that barely stood atilt was filled with relics;  cobwebs strung from the rafters; filth was the disorder of the day and piles of dirt, nearly two feet high, piled along the back perimeter.  The dirt had obviously been the architecture of the rodents who lived there.  Outside, on the right side of the garage was another broken cement path that led to the alley.  Garbage cans sat there where we’d deposit our garbage and trash.  In summer the cans would usually be home to scores of maggots and larva.  For me, this was more unsettling than the rats.
One nice feature in the yard was a mature peach tree.  The fruit of the tree was delicious and Charlie canned peaches with gusto, enough to enjoy the whole year round.  In front of the house along the street stood a tall canopy of Elm Trees, taller than the roofs of the houses which provided shade for the hot summer days we all endured before air conditioning. 

A similar Gladstone Apartment

(Part 1)
The first place I lived when I came home from the hospital in August 1942 was a small apartment, shared by my two parents and my mother’s parents (my Baubee & Zaydee).  It was on Gladstone off of 12th Street in Detroit, Michigan.  WWII was still raging,  My folks had very little so families did what families did . . . they helped one another.  Zaydee was a tailor and had his own shop on Claremont where he earned a modest living.  Dad would have gone off to war but was classified 4F, so he worked in a war plant making radio equipment.  I had no idea that I was Jewish or poor or that many of my distant relatives, who hadn’t gotten out of Europe fast enough, were being ethnically cleansed across the pond.  I just laid there on my back in my crib, having my diapers changed and putting up with a bunch of giants bending over me, speaking gibberish, and poking my belly with cold, boney fingers.  I didn’t know how good I had it, being taken care of and pampered 24/7.  What I’d give these days, during the 2020 pandemic to have a few of those carefree days again.
I continued to live on Gladstone for my first 4 years.  In ’46 when my specialness was diluted by the arrival of my brother Joel it became too cramped living with my grandparents.  So we moved about 10 yards away . . . just across the hallway.  My circle was forever widening as I grew older and wiser and discovered pieces of independence that came with the territory.  First came extended family: all the aunts and uncles, cousins, and what seemed like an endless stream of great aunts and uncles.  My dad’s dad was the youngest of more than a dozen siblings so there were clearly too many to track.  Even with my ten toes in addition to my ten fingers I was out of sorts.  Most Sundays, for me, were spent at some relative’s home playing with Tinker-Toys and being quiet.  This was before TV when people entertained one another by telling their stories of the episodes of their lives during the last 7 days.  Then there was all the celebrating of holidays and birthdays which required feasts of ethnic specialties: bagels and lox, herring, smoked fish, matzo balls, latkes, cheplach, noodle kugel, and handmade challah.
Two favorite treats for me included walking hand-in-hand with my Baubee on most Friday mornings, down Gladstone, across 12th Street, to the first alley on the left.  There, in a feather-covered garage were cages with live poultry and the ‘Shached’ who would slaughter the one singled out by Baubee when she’d pointed to ‘THIS ONE’.  You’ve never had fresher chicken than at those sabbath dinners.  TRADITIONS.
My other favorite was going with Zaydee down Gladstone to 12th Street, making a right, and going to the end of the first block to Zukins.  He’d lift me onto one of the stools at the counter and buy me a vanilla ice-cream cone for a nickel.  Delicious.  I felt so big and special.
There was no stranger-danger on Gladstone.  It was a ghetto-like community.  The little I saw and observed was the assortment of like-minded-neighbors all living their lives in peace and harmony.  The only tragedy I witnessed was an accident.  The older boys were forever playing baseball on the steps of a duplex across the street from our apartment building.  One day when Sollie was running to catch a ball, not noticing that he was running into the street, a speeding car coming up Gladstone hit him and sent him flying.  Sollie was mostly upset that he didn’t catch the ball.  For a moment we all thought he’d be dead.  But soon we heard the sirens, the police and the ambulance arrived and scraped Sollie up off the pavement and loaded him onto a stretcher.  The game was suspended and crazy parents screamed warnings at their kids.  Sollie lived.
In the ghetto, pretty much everything and everyone was the same.  If and until you see something different a young child would think that everything is the same as it appears.
And then one day, when you least expect it, things are different forever, not necessarily better.

(Today’s blog is not about Scrabble – Scrabble is a trademark)

In a move to be more inclusive and attempt to break down some of the walls Retrumplicans hide behind, I invited them all to put down their weapons and join the group pictured below. I didn’t receive a single response. A source close to the thugs tells me THEY were in their own garages, basements, and attics cleaning their guns, sharpening weapons, and surfing the net in search of the next secret prompt from ‘Red’.

Join me at Starbucks where we’ll raise a cup of Joe to MLK, JB, and KH.
Wear a mask and stay safe.

Time can be fleeting.
One day friends are arriving at your 6th birthday party
And WHOOSH you’re driving on I55 on your 55th.

You’d been trying to procreate for four years and finally a daughter.
Three months later she’s gone to something called SIDS
And you still remember that shock on the 1st Night of Chanukah each year.

Some days you still feel 18.  The guy in the mirror is some 78-year-old dude.
Only a few Tiger Lillies remain in your garden among the ever-growing
Number of Forget-Me-Nots. And TIME will never forget.

Time can become frozen like ultra-slow motion
Especially when you’re experiencing the throes of pain.
My finger inadvertently closed in a jackknife that I wasn’t supposed to touch.
A metal sliver in my eye; that’s what I got for not wearing protective goggles.

The insidiousness of a Diabetic LOW and the race to the ER.
The fear that sent a chill every time the phone rang at 3 AM from the angel of death.
The pain of a broken heart from a love lost or abandoned, the pain’s the same.

The panic on high ledges; white-knuckle fear of flying; being caught
With my hand still deep in the cookie jar.
Time is never the same, with more variations than a game of scrabble.
At times it feels new; at times it feels old; it sometimes feels young; then ancient.

When you want it most it can escape like the air from a pinhole in a balloon.
When you want it to hurry along it defies you like ice trying to melt at the South Pole.

Time can be saturated with anticipated joy or heart-stopping fear.
Time can be the barrier that holds you back from consummating your goal.
Time can move so swiftly that it can project you right past your intended target.
Time simply IS.

Dedicated to our friends and family, no longer here, but still very much
Somewhere in time.

Scrabble is a trademark

G is for Gary
Do you want his words of wisdom??

In consideration of his stellar leadership during the last four years, it is only fitting that our outgoing leader receives his due. In as much as the Capitol, the White House, and the National Mall are unavailable as sites for a tribute, It would be fully appropriate that 

  1. The Department Of The Interior designate 4 Deluxe Portable Port-A-Potties on the site where POTUS held up his Bible in front of the church during the Black Lives Matter march,
  2. Provide POTUS a 22 caliber pistol and 21 blank cartridges for his 21-bullet-salute,
  3. In lieu of a red carpet . . . use the teal blue drapes from the Blue Room if POTUS agrees to clean and return the same prior to his fly-away.
  4. Relating to the concern that TRUMP would likely not return Air Force One to the military fleet under his personal ‘Finders-Keepers’ practice, the FAA will provide a crop duster from confiscated planes from drug cartel runners to fly the TRUMP family to their Florida club.
  5. Nancy and Rudy will be granted 33 minutes each to rifle through the boxes which Trump has designated to be removed from the White House; they may confiscate contraband
  6. If illegal items amount in value of more than the average household income of four in New Your, the 9 Supreme Court Justice shall create a U-tube shame film of the Clan of Nine saying things like “Shame, shame”.
  7. Refreshments for the reception will be provided by Del Taco and Ripple Wine on D.C.picnic tables on the street-art which proclaims “Black Lives Matter”.

Now what?

Today’s Word is MOTIVATION
Many of you come to this webpage to get motivated to do the work you need to be a BETTER U.  The letter U is about the person reading this.  The tips and tricks and methods of becoming an accomplished Scrabble Player are the same techniques WE can utilize to be the best version of ourselves.

We are currently living in a time of separation and confusion which for some is causing anxiety and a lack of the M-word, MOTIVATION.  However, we have choices and the first one is, kick yourself in the ass and get-up.  It’s time to do finger pushups to get our hands reattached to our brains so when we place the Scrabble tiles down on the board we can play words like:

Happy, Joyful, Advantageous, Propitious, Auspicious, Favorable, Untroubled, Jocular, Intoxicated, Convivial, Chirpy, Exultant…

The Letter M brought to you by Karen Moss Hale

Scrabble is a trademark

This has been A WEEK  OF Turmoil – Gary Is fine and will begin writing soon.  However, he has a podcast scheduled for tomorrow and you can watch his last podcast at

While people are standing in long lines all around the country for Covid inoculations, food handouts, entrance to the DMV, and tickets to the Tiny Tim Revival Concert there is no waiting at all for enrollment into ‘SCRABBLE 101’.
While starting your journey to greater word power and knowledge is on a first-come, first-serve basis, we can get you up and going in an hour after you register for this powerful online class.  If you register by noon you’ll be in full learning mode before tea-time.
WHEN is the best time to choose Scrabble 101.  The answer is: “when you decide that you want to rise in the ranks and move up toward the upper-crust”. 
At the beginning of every new year, we witness hoards of eager plebians enlist themselves into programs related to weight-loss, Zumba, bodybuilding, learning Sanskrit, and Tough-Love.  Most (82.4%) of these wishful thinkers pay the fees and DROP OUT before the next FULL MOON.  Don’t throw away your money only to feel like a LOSER when you give up the ghost.
Enroll in the online, Scrabble 101, class when you are fully committed.  Don’t be a mamby-pamby; don’t be a loosey-goosey; don’t invite failure by thinking that this is something good for you UNTIL and UNLESS you know that you will follow through.  I can promise you that with a fervent commitment from you and an honest effort every day for the 21 days of the class I can get you moving and on your way upward in the world of STEMS, HOOKS, ANAGRAMS, and more. . .

  • Learn new words like NGWEE, ABOIDEAU, and WHATSIS. 
  • Become the life of the party and be the conversation piece. 
  • Become one of the HOTSHOTS on your block and be able to spout out words like tutu and moomoo and grigri and atlatl.

Leave your scrabble opponents scratching their heads wondering if those are real words that you are playing, or should they be challenging the likes of BASHLYK?

  • Call me at (949) 510-1673
  • Let me instruct you and share with you the first new word of 2021, MAVIN!

Scrabble is a trademark

Two days ago I clicked on an icon on my MacBook which took me to Netflix.  I’ve been spending more time than usual on Netflix since the Pandemic arrived.  I would bet that in the last 90 days I’ve watched over 200 movies.  I cannot tell you the names of them, many are a blur.  They don’t live on in my memory very long.  The most annoying thing about watching so many movies without writing down or remembering their titles is that now and then, after watching something for 15-30 minutes I recognize a scene or a character that jolts my memory and I know that I’ve already watched this one.  When that occurs I do a fast calculation and decide whether or not to watch it again in its entirety.
Reading the title of a film often does not identify what it is going to be about.
That was the case when I chose ‘The Professor And The Madman’.  To my delight, it was a winner.  I’m frequently delighted and amazed when I stumble upon a gem such as this.  I wonder how I came to miss seeing this before.  I wondered if anyone of my friends had ever suggested that I watch it.
Does that ever happen to you?  You come upon a movie or a book or a performer that is fantastic and you can’t believe that you somehow missed it.  And now, just by random chance, you discovered it on your own.  Two of the lead characters are Mel Gibson and Sean Penn.
The story is about the birth and undertaking of compiling the Oxford Dictionary. (If you’re read this scrabble blog, I sure that you’ll enjoy it too.)
It set my mind to wondering about words in general, their origins, who created them, how do they wear out of the language and become lost from common usage.

Did you know that the OWL (Official Word List) used in the game of scrabble by NASPA (North American Scrabble Players Association) is being changed again?  In this sensitive era, when some words carry with them the ability to hurt others, the ‘WORD COMMITTEE of NASPA’ plans to delete such utterances from the OWL.  I will make that list available to my readers as soon as I officially secure it.  I imagine that the 140+ ‘naughty words’ will all go away.  My source tells me that no additional words will be added at this time.
The void created by the lack of these words can hardly remain empty.  What will people do without them when you want to use the name of an utterance to injury or attack someone?  I guess we’ll all just make up different utterances to vocalize our rage and disgust.  OR, we’ll go back to throwing punches or using knives and guns to express ourselves.

Scrabble is a trademark


FRIDAY,  1/1/2021
2020 is past; good riddance.  I have been a responsible sheep; I stayed home, socially distancing, wearing a mask in public, and maybe not washing my hands as frequently, but enough to be compliant.  I’ve only been tested once and that went well, being negative.   Since March 2020 I’ve gained 15 pounds and I’ve worn a path in the carpet from my easy chair to the kitchen.  Before this all started I had two light-lifting part-time jobs right here in Laguna Woods Village, working 25 hours each week and supplementing my retirement income.  My whole financial world flipped upside down when all the clubhouses closed up shop when the virus invaded,  First I was furloughed and then let go.  The backup promise of unemployment pay is/was frustrating.  All the unemployment offices closed too.  While one could register online, it is not as simple as it sounds.  It’s not automatic.
So I’m still sitting here at home, in my recliner, in front of the TV, watching CNN, and channel surfing now and then, with my computer on my lap, spending way too much time on Facebook, playing Words-With-Friends, and playing other games now and then.  I’ve become very good with the Mag-Jong matching game.  It’s on a timer and my best score completing the board is 4 min 34 sec.
I’ve been writing this blog compulsively, day after day and month after month since August 2019.  I missed only 1 or 2 days during that time due to writers’ block.  And there have also been my weekly podcasts.  It’s amazing how much I can find to say, relating to scrabble.

  • I really miss going to work. 
  • I really miss running my scrabble club and playing at the other clubs I frequent. 
  • I miss the people I’d interact with and the good feelings that my contribution made in the lives of others.

I treasure my memories and the journeys where my thoughts and imagination have taken me, while still sitting in my chair.  Each photo saved on my computer can whisk me off to a different place and a different time, whenever I so choose.  How lucky I was last year to travel on my ’77 Sunset Trip’.
I’ve developed a true understanding and empathy for the animals we humans have caged in our zoos.  Many times this year I’ve felt caged by the self-imposed quarantine in my condo-cave.  If I could I’d release all those animals back to the wild.  I’ve been sharing my cage with my wife, Adrienne.  So far we haven’t killed one another.  There is some sense of hope that our lives will return to ‘normal’ someday.  But it doesn’t seem that normalcy will be returning anytime soon.

I have developed my Sudoko skills and read more than two dozen novels and watch more than 100 movies on Netflix.
I don’t have any clear answers as to what I might do to make this time in my covid-cave doable and fun.  I will dedicate the coming week to create a TO DO LIST and lighten up while remaining vigilant.
My wishes to you and yours are to Stay Safe, Find Fun, Be Resilient.

Scrabble is a trademark